Denied law license by state, EP white supremacist’s number in phone books, on Internet
Peoria Journal Star, August 31, 2002
By ANDY KRAVETZ
PEORIA – For nearly two years, Matt Hale listed himself as an attorney in Peoria-area phone books.
The only problem with that is that Hale, the head of an East Peoria white supremacist group and current East Peoria City Council candidate, was never licensed with the state of Illinois and therefore may have technically violated the law by having listed himself as a lawyer.
But whether or not the 31-year-old Hale will face charges for that depends on Tazewell County State’s Attorney Stewart J. Umholtz.
“We have not yet received a complaint from anyone who has secured legal services from Matt Hale,” Umholtz said this week. “Our concerns generally are on those complaints where the intent is to protect citizens from receiving legal services that are incomplete and are from someone not a licensed attorney.”
A listing for “Hale, Matthew F. atty” was found in the business white pages of the 2000 and 2001 Ameritech phone books and the 2002 McLeod USA directory, according to a Journal Star review. Hale was listed as an attorney next to his number on switchboard.com as of 11 a.m. Friday.
“In regards to Internet listing, the problem with that is you sign up for something and he may have jumped the gun thinking he’d be admitted (as a licensed attorney),” Umholtz said.
Hale, for his part, agrees and doesn’t think there’s a problem.
“I am an attorney whether everyone likes or not. Technically, I am an attorney,” he said, before quickly adding, “I have never advertised that I am an attorney nor have I told people that I can represent them in a court of law.”
Nonetheless, Umholtz’s office is investigating a complaint made on Aug. 14 to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. That complaint concerns a letter mailed to one of Hale’s associates currently jailed in Idaho.
The envelope has a return address with Matt Hale listing himself as an attorney at law.
Hale passed the Illinois State Bar examination in 1998. But the Committee on Character and Fitness, which evaluates applicants’ moral fitness to practice law, decided to deny his application, citing “a gross deficiency in moral character.”
The state Supreme Court refused to hear the case in November 1999, prompting Hale to petition the U.S. Supreme Court. It also refused to hear the case last summer, effectively killing Hale’s chances of obtaining a law license in Illinois.
Jim Grogan, a spokesman for the ARDC, said his agency has no authority in the matter. He deferred the case to Umholtz’s office.
“We only have jurisdiction over people who already have a law license,” he said.
Umholtz said someone who practices law illegally in Illinois could be held in contempt of court. A judge could issue an order to punish and restrain a person who falsely practices as a lawyer, he said.
“It could be a consequence he’d forever lose his law license,” said Umholtz, who says the last time a complaint was filed against someone falsely representing themselves as an attorney in Tazewell County occurred in the late 1980s.
But the Hale matter might be moot anyway. Hale’s number has been removed from the business listings in this year’s Ameritech phone book, a move Hale said had nothing to do with legality but rather economics.
“The way it works locally with the phone company, if you want unlimited local calling, you cannot be listed as a business. That’s why I took it out,” he said.
So why was it in there in the first place? Hale says he got the phone line soon after he passed the bar and figured he would soon be in business.
“I just kept it in there because it’s accurate,” he said. “Abe Lincoln didn’t have a law license but he was an attorney. I am not a license(d) attorney, but I am an attorney.”
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